Most business owners are aware of the importance online reviews play in expanding or maintaining one’s clients and business relationships. While positive reviews can spur potential clients to call, e-mail, or come to your place of business, a negative review can have the opposite effect.
That is, negative or fake Google reviews regarding business practices, the behavior of employees, the appearance of the office or facility, and many other factors can cause potential clients and customers to look elsewhere.
On the Internet, where the next business is only a click of the mouse away, this behavior is extremely typical of consumers. In a perfect world where we could trust everything we read online, this type of behavior would be quite understandable.
Unfortunately, in the world we live in slighted customers may lash out and post false reviews or baseless personal attacks. In other cases, a competitor may attempt to use Google or other online review services to sabotage you or your company’s reputation. Thus, business owners must remain aware of attacks on their company and respond appropriately to the challenge.
Removal of Fake Google Reviews by Working Directly with Google
Google sets forth review and photo policies. The company claims that it will remove content that has been flagged as violating the standards the company has set forth. Potential grounds for removal due to violations of Google’s policies include:
- Advertising – Some business owners may place ads for their own business in reviews for your company. Rival business owners who may post phone numbers or URLs are also in violation of this policy.
- Off-topic reviews — Google states that reviews should be based on one’s own experiences. Furthermore, the review should be on-topic regarding the establishment that is being reviewed. Personal rants, political or social commentary and other reviews that are not relevant can be flagged for review.
- Use of profane or abusive language – Google does not permit the use of profanity or personal attacks in reviews.
- Conflict of Interest – Individuals who have been paid, given free items, or otherwise compensated by a competitor to write negative reviews have an impermissible conflict of interest.
- Impersonation – Reviews where competitors or others may impersonate customers or clients are also impermissible.
- Hate speech – Reviews that target a business due to race, religion, gender, ethnicity, and other grounds are not permitted to appear on google. For instance, attacks against an ethnic business due on racial grounds are not permitted.
While Google claims that it will remove posts that violate these and other rules, the business owner may still need to prove or submit evidence that the post violates these rules.
Subpoena Google to Unveil the Online Abuser or Pursue Other Legal Options
Google can at times be non-responsive to your removal requests. If this happens you may need to take legal action to remove baseless content. In some cases, it may be effective to subpoena Google to uncover the identity of the poster. Google maintains information about users from when they first register and create their Google account. Many times, especially with accounts set-up specifically to attack and defame, the user may attempt to provide fake information. However, most people that register account Google should still have the IP address or addresses associated with the account.
Many times, especially with accounts set-up specifically to attack and defame, the user may attempt to provide fake information. However, most people that register account aren’t smart enough to cover all their tracks. Most people provide a cell phone number for security verification purposes when they register an account. Usually, a secondary e-mail address is also provided for security purposes and is required in the event someone is ever locked out and forget their password. Finally, Google should have an IP address or addresses associated with the account for each login that occurs to a Google account.
After receiving the IP address from Google, a party can then associate the IP address with the Internet service provider (ISP). Through a subsequent subpoena to the ISP, the identity of the customer associated with the IP address can be revealed. Once the identity of the poster is known, the affected business can pursue the individual for his or her defamatory post.
If telephone information is available or secondary e-mails addresses are available, they can also be subpoenaed for more information.
Finally, it also possible to request all information regarding any other Google accounts or products that are linked to the Google account. For example, the Google account and e-mail address might also be connected to Google voice phone number accounts, which can display call log information and additional IP addresses.
If it turns out that an account was created with fake information to defame, it’s then possible to get a Court order and have the review removed. Google has a policy that it will generally voluntarily comply with court orders finding that a particular post or review is defamatory or false.
Online Defamation Attorneys to Remove Fake and Defamatory Google Reviews
If your business has been targeted by a fake and malicious defamatory Google review, the Internet Defamation removal lawyers of Meyers Roman Friedberg & Lewis, LPA can fight to remove damaging defamatory Google reviews. We discuss your removal options and goals thoroughly to determine an appropriate strategy. To schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation call (216) 373-7706 or schedule a meeting online.